5 Ways to Use Google Docs in the Classroom

Apps & Mobile, EdTech, Learning, Learning Innovations, Platforms & Data, PreK-12

Google Docs is a user friendly suite of online collaborative tools that come with tremendous potential for use in the classroom. Last year all of the students in our school  received Google Docs accounts and I was kept quite busy getting students and teachers up and running with the new tools, then discovering innovative ways to use them as effective tools for learning. Here are some of the favorites.

Collaborative Writing

Sharing and commenting provide students with opportunities to receive immediate feedback on their writing from teachers and peers in the 24/7 classroom. The integrated reference tools and smart spell checker provide students with convenient writing support right on the page. The built in research tool expands opportunities for students to engage in real world writing and streamlines the process of creating links and citations with a handy one click feature.  For students using a variety of sources in their writing, Google Docs integrates seamlessly with EasyBib.

Google Docs Writing Workshop


In Box 

One of the challenges of using Google Docs with a class full of students is in managing all those Google Docs. While it’s fairly easy for students to learn to share their work teachers, the clutter that ends up in teacher’s email boxes can be overwhelming.  To solve this problem John Miller came up with the idea of using a Google Form to collect assignments. Here is how John’s invention works:

  • Teachers create and publish a Google Form to be used as an In Box.
  • When it’s time to turn in a Google Doc, students complete the simple form and submit a link to their Google Doc.
  • The information submitted by students automatically populates a spreadsheet to be used by teachers to keep track of assignments and also to quickly access those assignments for grading and review.
Use a Google Form as an In Box

Collaborative Brainstorming

The features available in the drawing component of Google Docs are well-suited for online, collaborative brainstorming  sessions that provide students with opportunities to work together to develop ideas. Digital brainstorming sessions provide all students with an opportunity to contribute, unlike traditional brainstorming sessions which encourage contributions from the “quick thinkers” in the room. Students can use shapes, arrows, text, and imported images to build a visual map for any task. The revision history uses colors to highlight and tracks changes to any Google Doc, making it easy to see what each student has contributed to the big picture.


Self-Grading Quiz

Provide students with immediate feedback and increase motivation by creating a simple self-grading quiz with a Google Form.  Just create a quiz with a few multiple choice questions, take the quiz yourself to submit the correct answers, and pop a simple formula into the spreadsheet end to let the technology do the grading for you.  Immediately publish the spreadsheet of results and teach students how to use the find tool (control + f) to quickly find their score and significantly raise the stakes to increase student motivation.  Please note: To avoid public humiliation and hard feelings make sure you require students to sign in with some sort of unique identifier that protects their privacy.

Use a Google Form to create a self-grading quiz

A Virtual Copy Machine

If you’re looking for an easy and efficient way to provide students with a starting point for a digital project, Google Docs Templates can help. You can save time and guide the learning by providing students with a consistent page format by using and creating your own templates. A Google Docs template is like a virtual copy machine. There are plenty of user-submitted templates already created and available for public use and there is even a category for Students and Teachers. 

Google Docs Teamplate

Final Thoughts

Google Docs is constantly evolving, adding new features, and becoming more useful for teaching and learning. If you haven’t yet put Google Docs to the test, I suggest you try it.

Susan Oxnevad

Susan Oxnevad

Susan Oxnevad is an educator, EdTech consultant and designer who is passionate about using technology as a tool for learning. Susan has been a classroom teacher and an active instructional technology facilitator in Chicagoland for more than two decades. She provides professional development for busy teachers via a variety of online and in-person platforms. Susan blogs about thoughtful ways to incorporate technology as an efficient and effective tool for learning on her own blog, Cool Tools for 21st Century LearnersFollow her on Twitter @soxnevad


mark macnamara /

As a novice blogger i am finding blogs like this inspirational. I tutor at a tutor house and can see uses for google docs in that setting.

Amie /

Susan, I too agree that Google Docs is an excellent tool for the classroom. Thank you for your post. In particular, Google Spreadsheets is an excellent and free way for students to learn spreadsheet basics and applications, which in turn, can improve problem-solving and analytical skills. For instance, with spreadsheets, students can analyze data, conduct an experiment, create a decision framework, among others. A resource I’d like to share with you is Spreadsheet Solving: (www.spreadsheetsolving.com). Here is a link to the overview video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGEkeik0yJo.

Danielle /

There are so many uses for Google apps in my classroom. It is a great tool for getting opinions/feedback from students, the use of group discussion in a Google doc, peer editing and collaborating on writing projects, tests and quizzes, and etc. I have not been utilizing this resource as much as I would like to because I was not very familiar with it. Now that I have had the training, I intend on incorporating Google apps into my lessons more frequently.

amandac /

Google Docs is a great educational tool for the classroom! I enjoy using docs to allow students to write reflections and ask questions. I enjoy the nontraditional opportunity for journal writing.

Matt R. /

There are so many cool ways to use these apps in the classroom! I really like the virtual copy machine. That is a nice way to get students to use technology in a way other than the normal cliche power point. I would also use it for students to write collaboratively. It is so important to have students work together and this makes it very easy to do so. And finally, in a box makes it easy top stay organized. And as teachers, who doesn’t love that?!

Lucian Bogdan /

I really like the Self-Grading Quiz App. I can post Practice Tests online through Google docs that students can do and receive immediat feedback. This will be a great way for the students to study for a test or quiz.

Carole Ross /

I haven’t had a chance to use Google docs other than now in this class. I do plan on using it in my new classroom in the fall. I particularly like “In Box” where student send you their link that ends up in a spreadsheet so you only need to click on their link to check their work. I also plan on using Google forms to do surveys with students and teachers. The school where I will be teaching uses Google docs for everything so I have a lot to learn to be an experienced user with them.

Erin K /

Susan, I really enjoy this article. It helps learning about the format and ways to use Google Docs a little bit easier. I personally think that the collaborative writing aspect of Google Docs is great. It seems like a very beneficial tool for students and teachers to use because it allows teachers to go into the documents at anytime and provide feedback, and it gives the students a reference tool, a spell check, and easy access to cite work that they may be using in their project. Google Docs are a great opportunity to allow differentiation when it comes to writing! I can’t wait to continue learning more about this !

Kerri B /

I am a beginner at Google Docs, but have become more familiar with it during this past school year. I know of some schools that do all their planning meeting scheduling on Google calendar, so it can be accessed by anyone at any time, and changes can easily be made. Since I teach first graders and they are just beginning to type, there may not be much of a chance to use Google Docs with my students, but I can easily see using the google forms with parents to gather information at the beginning of the school year, and it would be interesting to see if iGoogle Calendar could be implemented in our building to schedule parent teacher conferences!

Sanina Campbell /

I like the collaborative writing for the classroom. I think these types of projects will encourage student creativity as well as build group collaboration. It will also teach students how to respect the ideas and creativity of others.

Maura S. /

I really like the idea of having an In Box. As a teacher, I can’t stand all the paperwork that is involved. I love having everything organized and keeping track of papers seems like a waste of time. Having an In Box would be an awesome way to save paper and help keep classrooms looking neat and organized. I also really like the idea of creating self-grading quizzes. My students love anything that has to do with computers so I really like the idea of having their assessments be online.

Stacy E /

I really like the idea of the collaborative brainstorming. My special education students have a difficult time contributing to a specific in class conversation during lessons. This would give them a way to think first then take some time to contribute to a topic and know that they have expressed a worthwhile opinion, instead of feeling “shut out” of the conversation! Great tool!!

Mary Jo H /

I haven’t experimented a lot with Google Docs, but I do like the idea of a couple of features: 1 the self-grading quiz, 2 the collaborative calendar and 3 collaborative brainstorming. These 3 things I would like to try to use in my classroom next year.

Lisa S. /

I had no idea Google Docs had a drawing component. After reading the Collaborative Brainstorming section, I can see how students could use this to create graphic organizers. What a great tool!

April T. /

As a high school teacher, I can see that using google forms would be super helpful for collecting data. At the beginning of the semester, it can be used as a paperless way to gather information about your new students. Also, the ability to quickly reference any information you may need to know about your students, rather than having to dig for data or find forms that you filed away. Also, a great tool to use at the end of the semester to gather feedback from students about the course and my teaching style.

Rae /

I find it very user friendly and there are so many different ways to use Google Docs in the classroom

Nola S /

I never thought to use Google forms as an assessment tool. I think it’s a great idea to provide immediate feedback. Students like to see how they are doing compared to others, so even with a private login they would have an opportunity to do so. I would also really like use to make use of the inbox. I’m always looking for a way to streamline going paperless!

Dale Tanner /

This was a great article. Filled with terrific information.

Patty /

The templates seem like useful tools.

Nicole Brunsman /

This is a nice list. I have only been recently introduced to Google Docs so this is a good way to see some of the uses it has to offer. The collaborative brainstorming can be a great tool for group projects and allows students to work together from anywhere. The self-grading quiz also looks very useful. I know how anxious some students get waiting to know the scores they’ve received on quizzes so this is a great way to let students get immediate feedback. Overall this a very helpful list!